Cross-Country Skiing In Northern BC
For those living in Victoria, Northern BC is a great place for a short vacation. It is only a three-hour drive away, there are lots of world-class cross-country skiing trails, and the surroundings are simply incredible. That's why, in this article, we will build on earlier issues of our Slow Travel topics to bring you a special insight into our area's famous ski slopes.
If you are traveling in a big group, cabin rentals can work out to be very cost effective. When the cost of the cabin is split between 5 - 10 people it can work out to be substantially cheaper than a hotel. And, not only will the accommodation be substantially cheaper - you'll also have all the amenities to be able to cook for yourself. Search online for Northern BC cabin rentals and you should find plenty of cabins to choose from.
One great location is around Smithers, where there are nearly 45 km of official trails running through spruce and pine forests only a few minutes from the town. The trails are well maintained by the local cross country ski club, and there are great facilities including a heated lodge. The trails range from novice to expert, with some of the trails being dog friendly, just in case you want some nonjudgmental companionship. There are also another 50 km of unofficial trails, so you will be spoiled for choice - although some of these run over private land, and so it's best to ask the locals about them before you set out.
If you are going to go to Northern BC, you will want to go skiing in comfort, and that starts with your ski boots. These need to fit well, as there is nothing worse than a loose boot. You're probably going to want to wear two pairs of socks underneath these, the first being a thin pair, with a thicker wool pair over these. Make sure that the boot fits snugly, without being uncomfortably tight. To test this, lace up the boot, buckle it, and stand on one foot - it works better if this is the one with the boot on it. Make sure there is gentle contact all around, and that your toes touch the end of the boot.
Of course, if you're feeling a bit more adventurous, you might want to try backcountry skiing and carve your own tracks. You can go on guided trips that last from as little as one day or as much as ten days. But no matter how good a skier you are, it's always advisable to hire a guide, especially if you aren't familiar with the area. There is good backcountry skiing near Smithers, as well as Terrace, Prince George and Tumbler Ridge. If it's your first time going backcountry skiing, you might want to arrive a bit early and take the course on technique, as well as things like avalanche safety.
For something completely different, why not try dog sledding? You can go out for as little as one or two hours, or spend several days in the wilderness. Tour operators will provide everything you need - including dogs, a sled, lessons and safety training. They can also arrange for accommodation on long trips, ranging from simple mountain huts to high-end lodges.
Snowshoeing is also a nice, relaxed way to explore the BC wilderness. If you're a beginner, there is a 4 km beginner's loop in Eskers Provincial Park about 40 km northwest of Prince George. There is also an additional 15 km of trail, all situated on gently undulating terrain, making this a relaxing experience with stunning winter views at every turn and abundant wildlife.
For something a bit more challenging, Babine Mountains Provincial Park near Smithers offers more rugged landscapes, with mountains and alpine plateaus. There is even an old mining road that runs through dense forest along the Silver King Basin Trail, and then emerges into the sunlight, where the surrounding mountains provide a glorious and unforgettable vista. The other area that is well worth seeing is the Giscome Portage Trail, located near Prince George. Of particular interest here is the Huble Homestead, a historic site that is kept alive by volunteers, and features a general store, a trapper's cabin and several other pioneer buildings.
To discover more about winter vacations in Northern BC, a good starting point is the main British Columbia government website, where you can find links to other government sites, including one dedicated to BC provincial parks, and another one that provides specific information about Northern BC. Plan your trip as early as possible and you should be able to pick up a great deal on a cabin.
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Image Credit: http://tourismpg.com/sites/default/files/styles/extended/public/otway.JPG and http://www.resortac.com/images/dog_sledding/dogsled_tours_whistler2.jpg